local media insider

Add free Wifi hotspots with data capture to boost social media programs

Digital agency Guarantee Digital has signed up to offer free Wifi as a service

Alisa Cromer

Among the more interesting options that agencies can offer to clients is free Wifi that captures customer data. 

Guarantee Digital, a third party reseller of agency services, recently started selling a platform created by Social Hotspot to a few  initial customers. 

"Everybody loves free WiFi, so you can check Facebook and e-mail without impacting your data plan. It's on someone else's dime," said Daryl Hively, CEO of Guarantee Digital. 

While companies typically think of people who use computers and tablets while traveling as the primary consumers of free Wifi, a huge market of people will turn off the data plan on their phones to tap into a free option.  When they find a Social Hotspot from any device, the merchant who controls the Wifi can capture their log-in information, and begin to seamlessly and organically accumulate customer data for promotions - or even advertise promotions via the network.

Here's how it work: The customer searches for free Wifi on their device, and sees the SocialHotspot option.  When they click on the link, a page pops up asking how they would like to connect - ie via Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ or email:

As you can see from the above screenshot, the "Connect" page features an ad, in this case from Guarantee's first customer, Olympia Resort Hotel Spa & Conference Center.  This particular ad is generic with all log-in options listed, which means customer can log in with their preference, and some of the data - email, Twitter, Google+, is captured.

Facebook requires an extra step to collect a fan. However, ads on this page can also direct the visitor through a specifically designed data-capture funnel. For example, if there is a Facebook contest, the ad could say, "Log-in with Facebook to Win A Free Vacation."  The merchant can also limit the log-in options to, say, email or Facebook only: 

When customers log-in, they are redirected to a URL selected by the merchant. Below is an example of a landing page that is a contest page promoting "Enter to win a prviate Tequila tasting and dinner."

The ability for media to sell free Wifi that promotes social media contesting can help sales reps steer the conversation towards social media management programs.

The redirect page could just as easily be a web site url with a coupon for a free appetizer at the hotel's restaurants. Other ideas include sending visitors to Yelp for a review  ("Tell your friends about us on Yelp"), that can be sold in combination with visibility packages, or asking  users to download an app. 

It depends on what the client wants. Note that if the desired result is fans and emails, then there is an extra step because  Facebook does not allow merchantes to require a visitor to like the page in order to get Wifi. However, they can redirect the landing page to the contest page. 

Top merchants categories identified by Social Hotspot as having the most potential are shown here:

For sales reps looking for a new idea to bring to a mall, airport or hotel this has a lot of potential. The low hanging fruit, according to Hively, may actually be businesses that already have free Wifi, but are not able to capture data or are paying too much. The wholesale cost of a spot is just $50 a month.

To create an instant leads list, Hively recommends logging on to a site called openwifispot.com; simply input a city or zip code to see a list of venues that are hotpots.  

Hively also recommends targeting sporting events, where attendees are present for long periods of time and want to stay connected:

Below are some of the "sales slides" Guarantee Digital uses to explain their proposal to merchants:

So how do the economics work?  SocialHotspot is relatively inexpensive. The wholesale price for a box to hook-up a business into the network is $199,  plus the $50 a month. Hively says competing services he looked at started  at $1000 a month.  He doesn't plan to charge a high margin to enable free Wifi, but rather, bundle the service into lucrative social media management packages.

He's also interested in the potential to create Social Hotspot networks for local business associations; advertising across the network can be shared by members to reach  customers of local non-competitive businesses, and/or used to promote community-wide events put on by the association:

"Every day businesses have people sitting in their establishment"  whose data is never captured, Hively said.

One account Hively is pursuing is the local Chamber of Commerce. A proposal to a Chamber may recommend that they offer intallation of the box for free, in return for the ability to sell non-competing businesses. The association gets the data and can offset the cost of installation, which takes about two hours,  with the revenue share on the advertising.

Our take: Social Hotspot looks like a great inexpensive option that could provide a key advantage if used strategically. One more service to set up and monitor always has a cost. So we see the big benefit form Social Hotspots in providing a new way to get a foot in the door with a few new clients when big revenues are at stake, such as regional or national chains of restaurants and salons, airports, large hotels and events. Additionally,  for agencies selling small businesses in volume, a network arrangement with a Chamber of Commerce or the local restaurant association could also work. We are constantly running into customers whose biggest concern is building the opt-in email list, and this program is a solid first step for them. 

Many thanks to Daryl Hively, president, Gurantee Digital, for sharing his expertise with our members. Guarantee Digital supplies third party agency services to media companies; contact Hively at daryl@guaranteedigital.com.

The author, Alisa Cromer is publisher of a variety of online media, including LocalMediaInsider and  MediaExecsTech,  developed while on a fellowship with the Reynolds Journalism Institute and which has evolved into a leading marketing company for media technology start-ups. In 2017 she founded Worldstir.com, an online magazine,  to showcases perspectives from around the  world on new topic each month, translated from and to the top five languages in the world.

wifi, free wifi, social hotspot, guarantee digital